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PLoS' Ambitious Plans for 2010 and Beyond

July 28, 2010

PLoS recently released its 2009 annual report which they call Progress Update. I was first tempted to look at the financials for 2009 which shows a reduced net loss of $0.5M compared to a little over $1M in 2008. The report also states “PLoS posted its first profitable quarter in Q1 2010 due to strong growth in publishing activity, and we anticipate meeting or exceeding our financial targets for 2010”. But the important point is that at a total expense of less than $10M in 2009, PLoS was able to publish more than 6,400 research articles in its portfolio of 7 journals (stats from ISI); that is approximately $1500 per article (including direct, operational and marketing expenses). The stated net publication fee revenue, presumably the result of the article processing charges (APC) to the authors, is about $8.4M (there had been complaints that PLoS doesn’t make the collection information public, but that is a different matter) which indicates that a majority of the authors are honoring the request to pay the APC in full.

On the scientific and technical side, the report outlined areas of new initiatives. PLoS Currents, launched in 2009, is slated for expansion in 2010. Currents is a series of new and experimental web sites for the rapid communication of research results and ideas. To me the more interesting part is PLoS Hubs. Hubs are resources that aggregate relevant content from a range of sources (open-access in PLoS’ case) and are akin to the Virtual Journals jointly developed by AIP and APS.  PLoS Hub for Biodiversity is scheduled to open in late 2010 which “is a very broad interdisciplinary topic with data, analyses, and ideas currently spread across many locations. The aims of this Web site will be to create a place to share the latest findings, to connect researchers who have complementary interests and ideas, and to accelerate the pace of research and discovery.” I believe the web 2.0 implementations pioneered by PLoS will make Hubs the rallying points for the community.

Another interesting and useful item mentioned in the report is the Author Satisfaction Survey.

In 2009, we conducted our first comprehensive survey of authors about all aspects of our service. The survey covered published and rejected authors in 2008, and we were pleased to report that overall levels of satisfaction are very high. An overwhelming majority of published authors are likely to publish with us again and demonstrated very high levels of satisfaction with the open access and distribution of their published work and the overall publishing experience with PLoS.

PLoS early this year released the detailed results of this survey which can be viewed here. PLoS has thus proved itself good at author marketing and in responding to their feedback.

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